Will Berlin Mayor’s Resignation Spawn Culture Shake-Up?

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit resigned on Tuesday, in a surprise announcement. He will serve through December 11, 2014. A great lover of the arts and creator of the city’s unofficial slogan “poor but sexy,” Wowereit also served as the city and state’s culture senator. Thus, Berlin must not only look for a new mayor, but it’s cultural policy has also been temporarily set adrift.

That is due to a stipulation within Berlin law limiting the number of senators to eight plus a mayor, one less than the current spread of senatorial positions. After his re-election in 2006 Wowereit took up the post of culture minister himself, leaving cultural secretary André Schmitz to exercise most of the day-to-day tasks, Art explains.

The mayor announced his resignation from office and from politics in general at a press conference in Berlin, stating that the public debate concerning his suitability as mayor as the primary reason for his premature resignation two years before his term would have come to an end.

Wowereit has faced heavy criticism from the press, citizens, and even members of his own political party over the ongoing construction problems and delays of Berlin’s new international airport, Berlin Brandenburg International (“With Mounting Delays, Will Berlin Airport’s Public Art Grow Stale?“). According to Der Spiegel, Wowereit explained that the speculation was “too damaging to effectively govern.” He added “I’m leaving voluntarily and I am proud to have contributed to the positive development of the city.”

Wowereit has a reputation as an avid devotee of the arts. He often attends gallery openings and cultural events in the city and sits on the board of three musical theaters and the Berlin Opera. He has served as mayor since 2001, overseeing the lion’s share of the city’s cultural and economic growth and forging an image internationally of Berlin as a world capital for the arts.

Following a tax evasion scandal earlier this year involving Schmitz, Wowereit appointed former music industry executive Tim Renner to take over the culture secretary post (“Music Producer Tim Renner to Head Berlin’s Cultural Policy“). It will be up to a new mayor to determine the structure of Berlin’s culture politics going forward, at a crucial time in the city’s development. There were no immediate candidates to take over as mayor, at the time of writing.


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